An 84-year-old man affected by arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chronic renal failure on dialysis, chronic ischemic heart disease, permanent atrial fibrillation, previous AICD implantation about one year before, was admitted to the intensive care unit because of typical chest pain and dyspnoea during dialysis treatment with nonspecific ST segment changes at ECG and mild increase of cardiac enzymes. A transthoracic echocardiogram was requested, and it demonstrated a big loculated paracardiac hematoma not easily distinguished from pleural source, with sprays of fibrin localized in correspondence of the free wall of the right ventricle determining a partial compression of the right ventricle with no signs of tamponade. Moreover, a chest CT scan with contrast medium was performed and it confirmed the presence of an intrapericardial hematoma located in correspondence of right heart chambers in the absence of contrast spearing post injection.
Subsequently, during the following dialysis treatment the patient developed severe hypotension with chest pain, dyspnoea and paradox pulse treated with liquids infusion with prompt resolution of symptoms followed by a surgical drainage through midline sternotomy. The patient underwent operation and a large organizing thrombus was removed from the pericardial space anterolateral and inferior to the right atrium. The pericardium, which was not thickened, was not removed. His postoperative course was uneventful.
This case shows that an intrapericardial hematoma several months following the initial bleeding can present with evolving clinical features and cause an impaired cardiac filling in condition of volume depletion such as dialysis treatment. Although two-dimensional echocardiography represents the first line diagnostic tool in this condition, chest CT scan with contrast medium is frequently used to evaluate patients for pericardial effusion and it is of value in these cases because it permits differentiation of an extracardiac from an intracavitary mass, precise determination of the extracardiac extent of a mass and characterization of a mass as a probable hematoma.
Finally, we can conclude that a very low threshold for requesting complimentary imaging studies is essential for prompt diagnosis, and the selection of the diagnostic test depends on the urgency of the clinical presentation. Furthermore, the noninvasive information allowed the surgical team to plan an optimal approach to excising the mass.